Wednesday, April 25, 2007

American Idol: Top 6 non-results

NJ.com is once again being buggy, so I'm going to duplicate what I wrote there over here. Thoughts on what did and didn't happen coming up after the jump...

"How could we let anybody go on a charity night?" asked "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest at the end of Wednesday night's well-meaning but often clumsy two-hour telethon/results show, in which there was no actual result.

After 120 minutes of promising "the most shocking result in our history," Seacrest and his producers reached into a trick they used back in season two, under less pure circumstances: they didn't get rid of anyone.

The first time they tried this, the week that Corey Clark was disqualified from the show for lying about his criminal history, Team Idol went through the motions of acting like someone would be kicked off by the traditional audience vote. In the end, though, they backed off and said no one would be going home, and that the results would be rolled over for voting the following week.

Back then, it came across like a cheap stunt -- literally -- to prevent Fox from having to cut the season short by a week and lose millions in ad revenue. Plus, because the producers had Seacrest identify the bottom three, it gave those contestants the unfair advantage of extra-motivated fanbases; Rickey Smith, who went home the following week, wasn't in that trio.

This time, "Idol" handled the non-elimination slightly better, and for more noble reasons. Seacrest didn't rank the six contestants at all, and the 70 million votes cast this week will roll over, with two singers going home next week. Everyone's on the same playing field.

And if Fox had announced upfront that no one would be eliminated, would the millions of rabid "Idol" fans have sat through two hours of gratuitous celebrity cameos and emotionally grueling footage of poor and dying people in Africa? Yes, it was a bait-and-switch, but at least it was for a good cause -- several of them, in fact.

But while I can't fault the "Idol" producers' intentions, the execution was another matter. The show opened with Seacrest having difficulty reading the teleprompter, and things remained rocky. The live performances from a separate theater were often underwhelming (a notable exception: Annie Lennox singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water"). The final six contestants struggled as usual to sing together, this time on original compositions by Quincy Jones and Bono. A music video with Carrie Underwood visiting Africa awkwardly seemed to turn the local children into props. Outside of a "Simpsons" parody with Simon as a contestant and Marge, Lisa and Homer as the judges (including a long-deserved Dunkleman joke), the comedy bits all fell flat.

(The biggest misfire: the judges ripping Jack Black for his rendition of "Kiss From a Rose," which was actually the best the song has sounded in "Idol" history, and better than almost every male performance this season.)

Still, money got raised ($30 million by show's end, according to Seacrest) and people will be helped, and for that I'll forgive the non-elimination, Ben Stiller's unfunny and unending bit, or that cheesetastic celebrity lip-synch jam on "Staying Alive."

24 comments:

Undercover Black Man said...

You're a generous man. I didn't sit through much of the telethon, but I did tune in for the results. I am burning angry about the bait-and-switch... not that they didn't eliminate anyone, per se, but they carried the tease too far, literally making Jordin cry and making people's jaws hit the floor.

Then Seacrest did the equivalent of saying "Suckeeerrrrs!"

I am furious at those shitbag "Idol" producers, Alan! I thought how they did it showed their profound contempt for their audience... and their contestants.

And I want you to get furious, dammit! You're in a position to call those charity-pimping greedheads to account!

Nicole said...

I wonder if the contestants knew because Jordin certainly looked like she thought she was going home tonight. Although I did suspect it would be a fake out when the last two were Chris and Jordin. There is no way Jordin is going home until the final show.

The guest appearances were mostly a waste of time.. and what happened with Pink, Gwen Stefani and other "stars" that were mentionned? Would it have been that difficult for them to film a five second appearance?

I wasn't as creeped out by the Celine-Elvis duet as I thought I would be. Cheesetastic she may be, but she can actually sing, and considering most of the final 6 really can't, you see the difference. I'm also with you on the Jack Black song. He is not bad, although it would have been better to have Seal sing with him.

I am less offended by the non results than by the serious ambiguity regarding the corporate contributions, namely Rupert and his billions. He could easily donate 30 million himself, and will make more than that back if tonight's ratings are decent.

Pete said...

They went all out with their ruse. I looked ahead in my guide and the description for Idol next Tuesday mentions "the five remaining finalists".

I never watch Idol results shows, but I feel for anyone who invested two hours in that tonight. Yikes.

Adam said...

David, sorry, but how could you not see that coming? What else would have been "shocking" that they'd have been so gleeful to promote?

Scott Tobias said...

Damn straight, Nicole. I was appalled by the piddling amount coughed up by News Corp for this show. The so-called biggest night on the biggest TV show ever, and all you can bring yourself to give is a piddling $5 million. The dude who took second place at last year's World Series Of Poker netted more than that! (Someone really needs to take on corporate philanthropy. It sounds churlish, but whenever Chevrolet "generously" donates a couple thousand to its general scholarship fund during a college basketball game, surely they're getting back much more in the way of free advertising for their product.)

As for the show, no way I was going to watch it without TiVo's help. The lowpoint has to be that Celine/Elvis duo, which was all kinds of creepy, though it did strike me as needlessly cruel to set up Jordin as the "shocking" loser. It reminded me of David Brent firing his secretary for stealing post-it notes.

Undercover Black Woman said...

I'm sorry, but I can't see how on earth you're furious. They did what they had to do, otherwise no one would have watched. No one.

How can you be this furious? I hope you're being sarcastic, UBM. Even then your joke does not wash well. America is known for not giving a damn about the rest of the world and I for one was happy to see Idol "give back." I can't believe you'd get this worked up over a television show. Didn't you learn anything about the world and the horrors taking place in other countries? Or were you so consumed with your desire to see the results that you just couldn't bother?

Anonymous said...

Well, I hope the Idols knew, because otherwise they tortured poor Jordin.
(And I have to think they did, if only because they hadn't done their second group performance.)

If they didn't know, Ryan should have gone down to two, then announced simultaneously that both were safe. You would have had most of the drama, but not the torture of a sweet 17-year-old.

Crewgrrl said...

The music and celebs were bad. Just bad. Not entertaining. Except I liked that last song. It was pretty catchy.

But I thought the segments about poverty were really moving and compelling. The charities that benefited are really great charities.

Question: How many of you donated?

I like to think of myself as someone who cares about stuff and I have a bunch of favorite pet causes, including a school in Uganda. But I made a point of donating to Idol Gives Back because I wanted to support this effort by a fluffy nonsense corporate whore of a show to (1) make America think about the problems in the world, and (2) encourage people to actually do something to make the world better. I felt like American Idol actually was pretty ground breaking. I hope this is the beginning of a trend, rather than a totally isolated incident.

And Bono can do no wrong for me.

Jennifer J. said...

Crewgrrl: I'm right there with on the Bono love train. That new short hair style looks good on him, too! I don't know where he's finding all the energy to pour into one.org and flying around and meeting with all the world leaders, but I say keep on! I think he's doing an amazing thing. I, too, gave, hoping this will help prod some more of America into action. Also, the new one.org commercial...hope it spurs people, too.

Undercover Black Man said...

Adam: I didn't see it coming because I didn't watch the previous two hours so missed all the hype about "shocking" results. Had I seen all of that, maybe I would've gotten wise. ("He don't look wise.")

Undercover Black Woman: I am, sorry to say, totally serious. No joke, no sarcasm. That was "bad faith."

Again, not the fact that didn't kick anybody off... but the precise way they did it, exploiting everyone's love for Jordin... and Jordin's tender feelings.

I'm sorry to tell you this, but I'm afraid you've got stomach cancer. JUST KIDDING!

What's that about? This whole franchise is founded on the premise that the stakes are real. We root for the singers we like the best, root against the ones who blow, and become invested in the outcome. And only because viewers are so invested in the outcome would they bother with the bait-and-switch. Thus, an act of contempt.

One whose malign undertones, in fact, are starkly contrary to the supposed spirit of good will infusing the whole "Idol Gives Back" circle-jerk.

I'm done. I will say no more.

J said...

This is easily the best thing Bono's ever done for charity.

Anonymous said...

Was I the only one who found it absolutely reprehensible that the broadcast was essentially begging people to donate to charity for things that the government should be paying for? Schools? New Orleans rebuilding? These shouldn't require charity handouts! America is the richest country on earth, why the hell isn't it taking care of its own people??? If all the money spent on the military and Iraq was put to good use at home, I bet poverty in that country could be totally obliterated. This is the real tragedy.

Kristin said...

I always have a problem with stars showing up for charity events of this nature, but never mentioning anything about donating their OWN money to the cause. Bono has spent a lot of his TIME on visiting Africa, talking to world leaders...but where is his announcement about how much of his own money haas gone to these causes? He could probably start several schools and hospitals with his millions...but I don't ever hear about it.

Also, if this was supposed to be "Idol Gives Back," then shouldn't they have announced some kind of donation to the charities by the producers themselves? Or a matching amount of money for every dollar regular, working Americans donated?

My TiVo didn't tape the show because it overlapped with some other things I tape. I only watched the last ten minutes. The most hilarious thing ever was that last bit with Rob Schneider showing up on screen and saying "I'm Adam Sandler." And no one laughed! No one got the joke or even knew who he was. Ha, ha, ha!

Anonymous said...

It wasn't so bad. It's about media coverage. If they had booted someone, that would have been covered as opposed to the charity deal.

Stacie in St. Louis said...

I'm a dork at heart - I loved the "stayin' alive" lip-sync thing. One question - I let my 6 year old stay up to see her beloved Kelly Clarkson. We were flipping back and forth between Idol and the Cardinals game, so we missed the introduction of the brunette singer towards the end (she sang with an emaciated black-haired guitarist who I also didn't recognize). So, was that Clarkson? I thought it sounded like her, but my daughter (using 6 year old logic) insisted it couldn't be her, because (A) she had never heard that song before, and (B) the woman didn't LOOK like her Kelly. So, one disappointed little girl went to bed sad. Can anyone tell me...WAS that Clarkson?

Dark Tyler said...

Kelly Clarkson (who actually was Kelly Clarkson, yeah) showed them how it's done. Uh-huh.

Now, regarding the non-elimination thing, I understand the fury, but I think you're all missing the big picture here:

Last night, Jordin won American Idol.

Sure, the producers made her cry a bit, and that was a shame, but they want her to win this thing, and last night's stunt probably gave them what they wanted.

Dark Tyler said...

And what I wanted, I should add. :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't watch the whole two hours, but I did see Clarkson's performance of Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain (MLK song)". Though the original is far superior, Clarkson did an amazing job.

Anonymous said...

Stacie asks "the brunette singer towards the end (she sang with an emaciated black-haired guitarist who I also didn't recognize)"

and yes, that was Kelly Clarkson and Jeff Beck (not BECK, but Jeff Beck from the early 70s). SHe looked different b/c of the hippie dress, I thought.

AndyW said...

I should have figured it out sooner, but as soon as Seacrest told Melinda to sit down I knew no one was going home tonight.

And I get the reason, but I think it should have been a real, honest-to-goodness non-elimination leg. Instead, two go home next week.

And what was with making Jordin cry? That's stupid.

I disagree about Bono "only" donating time. The man's devoted his life to his cause.

And props to Ellen for ponying up $100,000. Sure, she can afford it, but it's a nice gesture (would have been nice if the rest of the celebrities had followed her lead).

Now, can we talk about "Lost"?

dez said...

^ Yeah, how about that "Lost" last night? That was some good TeeVee!

jimmo said...

Ha, my wife both commented that the worst performance of the night was Annie Lennox'.

Crewgrrl said...

Kelly sang beautifully. I really enjoyed her performance. I think the reason she was unrecognizable is that she seems to have put on a lot of weight.

I did freak out quite a lot when it seemed Jordin was going home. I jumped up and cursed myself for failing to keep dialing when I got the busy signal. I will be sure next week to make up for it and vote for real.

Yay Jordin.

J said...

>>Ha, my wife both commented that the worst performance of the night was Annie Lennox'.

Both your wives must have been in the bathroom throughout Il Divo, then. And back again for Celine. And...